Friday, February 28, 2014

Black Superheroes: Bumblebee

Not the most intimidating of codenames, but still...
Name: Karen Beecher

First Appearance: Teen Titans #45 (1976)

History: Karen Beecher was a scientist and inventor who had a fairly normal life, at least until she began dating Mal Duncan, a member of the Teen Titans who had gone through several codenames. Worrying that Mal was being overlooked by the rest of the team Beecher concocted a scheme to make him look good. She created a bumblebee themed high tech suit and attacked the team in an effort to prove how valuable Duncan was to the team. Her scheme was effective and she managed to escape Scot-free but soon afterwards she confessed the ruse to Mal. Realizing that her intellect and ingenuity would make her a valuable ally the Titans recruited her on the spot. Under the name Bumblebee Karen continued working with the group before eventually joining Doom Patrol.

Beta Says: Bumblebee is yet another example of a character that was “awesome on paper” but never lived up to her potential. Think about: Karen was a scientist, an inventor while also being a black woman. The black woman was the smart one. That is so rare in superhero teams. You might want to accuse DC of simply ripping off the Wasp. Truthfully aside from both being insect themed heroines who could fly I’d say there wasn’t that much connecting them. Bumblebee was as a scientist and had no superhuman powers; her costume was a power suit of her own design. She did not change in size, which was the Wasps’ main gimmick. Um, well DC altered her so she’s stuck in a small form. Thanks for nothing, guys.

 More on Bumblebee after the jump.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Black Superheroes: Rage

I pity the fool who denies me my chocolate milk!
Name: Elvin Daryl Haliday

First Appearance: Avengers #326 (1990)

History: A small, timid kid thirteen year old Elvin Haliday was often the victim of bullying. One day while hiding from his tormentors he accidentally got covered in toxic waste. Surviving the exposure he fell ill, needing to be nursed back to health by his grandmother. Elvin recovered but was forever changed; he had aged into a body of a man in his mid-thirties and also developed superhuman strength, speed and durability. No longer timid Elvin now possessed complete confidence. At his grandmother’s urging he decides to use his new found powers to fight crime, dubbing himself “Rage”. He almost immediately confronted the Avengers and demanded to be allowed to join, which they eventually allow for a brief time. He would go one to become a member of the New Warriors and find a mentor in Night Thrasher.

Beta Says: I have an extremely strong suspicion that in the creation stage of this guy someone wanted to call him “Black Rage” but was vetoed. Because why else would you call an angry black man superhero “Rage”? Despite being 1990 Rage feels a lot more like the early attempts in the 1970s to make black superheroes. Thankfully Rage wasn’t a criminal, just a kid who suddenly got to grow up. Of course this concept is childhood wish fulfillment (what kid reading comics doesn’t dream about being an adult superhero?) and in that regard Rage is very similar to Captain Marvel. However unlike Captain Marvel, who gains wisdom when he yells “SHAZAM” and ages up, Elvin still possesses the mind of a thirteen year old. I guess that makes him more similar to the kid from the movie Big. Or the movie 13 Going on 30, but probably better acted.

More Black Rage after the jump.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Black Superheroes: XS

She's the black sheep of the Flash family*
*(Oh my god, I'm so sorry I said that)
Name: Jenni Ognats

First Appearance: Legionnaires #0 (1994)

History: Born in the 30th Century Jenni Ognats is the daughter of Dawn Allen, one half of the superhero duo the Tornado Twins, and the granddaughter of a time displaced Barry Allen, the second Flash (boooooo). Unlike other members of the Allen family Jenni showed no signs of possessing super-speed. After the murder of her mother and her uncle Jenni was left in the care of her father Jeven Ognats of the planet Aarok (a human colony). One day she and her father were kidnapped by the Dominators, an race of aliens who had repeatedly made trouble for Earth. Knowing Jenni’s heritage they purposely attempted to awaken her potentially latent powers through stress by torturing her father. The plan worked and Jenni’s connection to the speed force awoke, granting her superhuman speed just like the rest of her family. She used her new found abilities to escape with her father. After submitting herself to United Planet scientist to learn to control her new powers. Eventually she was recruited into the Legion of Super-Heroes, the premier superhero team of the 30th Century, under the codename XS. Jenni possesses all the standard powers of The Flash, including super-speed and the ability to vibrate her molecules allowing her to move through solid matter. She also possesses a ring from the legion that allows her to fly.

Beta Says: For all intent and purposes XS is the female equivalent of her cousin Bart Allen, aka Impulse (and…ugh, “Kid Flash II”) in that they have near identical origins except that Jenni was born without powers and had a normal childhood while Bart was born with accelerated aging and had to grow up living in a virtual reality world which severally damaged his ability to function in the real world. By contrast Jenni seems like a pretty normal, if shy, teenage girl. They were created in the same year so it’s a bit strange to note that Bart is MUCH more famous, relevant and popular.

You know, in superhero comics the Summers Family Tree (as in Scott Summers, aka Cyclops) is usually pointed out as the biggest example of convolution when it comes to character relationships but the Allen Family Tree is probably almost as damn bad but no one ever really talks about it. Let me put it this way; the current Flash has a half black teenage granddaughter from the future. And she’s not even the weirdest one.

More on XS after the jump.

Friday, February 21, 2014

300th Blog: Review of Civil War (Marvel Comic)

Ladies and gentlemen welcome to the 300th blog of Beta is Dead. Four years and countless hours of my life have been thrown into this blog and at 300 entries I’m fairly certain I have enough material for multiple novels. As I mentioned in the last blog today I’ll be celebrating this milestone by reviewing one of Marvel Comics' most important modern crossovers Civil War, which began publication in 2006 and ended in 2007. If there’s one huge problem with today’s comics, especially at Marvel, it’s the seemingly constant stream of big comic events and big status quo altering crossovers. Back in the day these types of things were more spread out and they didn’t always “change everything”. Nowadays there’s at least one big storyline a year (sometimes more!) and when it’s over it they’ve made major changes to the canon only to change everything again by the next one. X-Men: Schism is a fantastic example of this. Schism was supposed to be this HUGE deal, a storyline that divided the X-Men into two warring factions but just a year later all of that was tossed out of the window when Avengers vs. X-Men established a totally different dynamic. Why bother changing up the world if you’re going to just change it again before we get used to it?

Anyway Civil War really is the start of this in the 2000s. It was the next chapter of Marvel’s weird ass agenda of pumping out a bunch of events labeled as one big “epic” saga starting with Avengers Disassembled and ending with Siege. But it was Civil War that really got it rolling as it’s ending shattered the basic foundation of the Marvel Universe (of course most things went completely back to normal a few years later, meaning nothing here really mattered in the long term). For the record this book was written by Mark Millar with art by Steve McNiven.

The question is this: was Civil War a good story? It’s a famous story and a historically relevant and is actually pretty controversial but the quality of book itself isn’t guaranteed. Now the Civil War story was made up of seven issues but there were also numerous tie-ins and side story comics. Since I would have to spend a ton of money to buy all that crap we’re just going to stick with the main miniseries. After all the main book alone should have a complete and satisfying story, right? Right?

Full review after the jump.

[WARNING: There are spoilers freely written throughout this review but seeing as this is an eight year old comic you should probably get over it]

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Nerd Rage #16: Road to Marvel's Civil War

Ever wonder who would win in a fight?
No? Too bad
This is my 299th blog, which means two things: 1) Holy shit, I’ve written 299 blogs and 2) the next blog will be #300. That’s a pretty big milestone and one we cannot ignore. A while back, maybe a few weeks or months after uploading blog #100, which if you recall was a rant/review of Spider-Man: One More Day, I was trying to figure out comics that I’d want to review for future big milestones. I decided Spider-Man: One Moment in Time would be appropriate for the 200th blog but there was a comic that I really wanted to review but that I felt deserved an equal amount of attention as those two heinously terrible Spider-Man stories. Then I remembered Civil War, a major crossover for Marvel Comics in 2006.

What’s so important about Civil War? So important that I would sit on reviewing it for years? Well it was a major game changer for Marvel Comics that set a particularly dubious status quo for Marvel both in narrative and the way they conducted business. The effects of this book, as far as the storyline went, lasted for the rest of the decade up until 2010’s Heroic Age. In my opinion Civil War is likely the most important storyline from Marvel Comics during the 2000s (House of M would be the other logical choice).

So next time I’ll be reviewing the main Civil War book, which was seven issues. However today I’d like to talk about important points that lead up to this crossover so that we are all on the same page when I review it, much like I did with One More Day and X-Men Schism.

More useless information after the jump.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Kickstarter Weekends: Water War, Robot Heart

It’s been about a month since the last Kickstarter Weekend which by my calculation is the proper amount of time to do another one. Today we’ll only be looking at two new projects, both being particularly quirky ones. But before we get into them let’s look back at our three previous projects and check on their status. 

Michigan City Vandals Album Project: Funding Pending

Final Earnings: TBA 

Unfortunately my friends in MCV have not been doing as well as I’d hoped with their new project. They’ve only accumulated just over one grand of their $5,000 goal. This sucks because they are a really awesome band and in the time since the last KSW a ton of shitty bands with much larger goals have gotten their shitty albums funded. The Michigan City Vandals deserve to have their album funded too and that they haven’t really makes me a bit disgruntled.

But there is still time because the funding period is still in progress! If you have not yet done so you should pre-order their album on their Indiegogo page and help make this thing happen. I have heard that they will settle for $2,000 and , if true, they’re just a few pledges away from that (remember that Indiegogo will let them keep what they've raised). Tell your friends, tweet the link, share it on Facebook. Too often good bands get ignored so let’s all work together to make sure this isn’t one of those times! [Link]

One Nation - Out of the Darkness: Funding Pending

Final Earnings: TBA

Like the previously mentioned entry One Nation’s funding period is still in progress. They’re doing pretty good though they have yet to reach their goal. I feel pretty strongly that they’ll be able to do so as they have over two weeks left on the clock. [Link]

Low Budget Ethnic Movie: Funding Successful!

Final Earnings: $20,561 ($20,000 Goal) 

Of all the projects I talked about last time this was the one I was most worried about. However it would seem that it just barely made it to the finish. Which means this intriguing and potentially important film will see the light of day. I’ll be keeping my eye on this as I’m pretty goddamn gung-ho about watching it. Maybe a review down the line…?

Two new projects after the jump.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Black Superheroes: Triathlon/3D-Man II

There is zero subtlety in that costume
They might as well call him "Black Man"
Name: Delroy Garrett, Jr.

First Appearance: Avengers #8 (1998)

History: An Olympic athlete in track Delroy Garret was shunned out of the sport when it came to light that he had been taking steroids. At his lowest point Garret joined the Triune Understanding, a religious organization that helped him get through that dark time in his life. In fact the group’s leader Jonathan Tremont was able to grant Garret superpowers. Garret now had three times the physical attributes of a person at their physical peek, as well as enhanced senses. Believing at the time that Tremont had simply unlocked his inner potential Garret becomes the superhero known as Triathlon and becomes the Triune Understanding’s celebrity spokesman. After several encounters with the Avengers Garret was asked to join their team mainly as a way to counteract recent accusations the team being racist and religiously intolerant (which were actually set up by the Triune Understanding in smear campaign). Hostile at first Triathlon went on to become a valued member of the Avengers.

Beta Says: I remember very clearly when Triathlon joined the Avengers. I, being about thirteen or fourteen at the time, recall there being something of a big deal surrounding the character’s creation, which was during Kurt Busiek and George PĂ©rez’s notable run on the Avengers. Now the thing I remember the most about it was how much everyone seemed to think Triathlon sucked. I mean I recall Wizard Magazine and others really not liking the guy at all. He showed up on several “Worst Avenger List” alongside the likes of D-Man and Starfox (and Starfox may or may not be a rapist, so that’s pretty damming company). At the time I didn’t really know why people hated him so much since I wasn’t reading the book back then but if I were to guess I’d suggest it may be that Marvel thought that introducing an “awesome” new character that only joins their premier hero team because he repeatedly told fans their favorite characters were racist assholes would somehow endear him to the readership. Plus the whole "Affirmative Action" thing is a very big hot topic with a lot of people and perhaps it was not handled particularly gracefully in the comic. Also I don’t think he’s very interesting. That might be the main one.

Also is it just me or is the Triune Understanding supposed to be Marvel Comic’s equivalent of Scientology?

Three times the black superhero after the jump.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Black Superheroes: Amanda Waller

She's here to manipulate meta-humans and chew gum
...and she just shot the last gum dealer
Name: Amanda Waller

First Appearance: Legends #1 (1986)

History: Amanda Waller’s life was altered when her husband, son and daughter were murdered. She left the Chicago housing projects where she lived along with her surviving children and went on to earn doctorate in psychology and political science, eventually becoming a congressional aide (she also has military training). During her time as an aide Waller came across the existence of the Suicide Squad, two separate teams of non-powered individuals taking on high risk missions. Taking elements from both teams she pitched a revival to her superiors. Her version would be made up of captured super villains who would be forced to take on missions that would be considered suicide runs for the government (super villains are extremely expendable). Her superiors agreed and placed in charge of the team. Since then Waller has become a prominent figure in the DC Universe having been associated with many government sponsored organizations dealing with super human affairs including Checkmate and most recently her own version of the Justice League of America. Uncompromising and ruthless Amanda Waller is very dedicated to serving her country…by any means she sees fit.

Beta Says: Okay, okay, I fully admit that I’m cheating with this entry. Amanda Waller is not a superhero. In fact at best she’s an antihero and at worst she’s a very deadly villain (IGN actually put her on their Greatest Comic Book Villain of All Time list). However most of the time she’s portrayed as someone with the best interest of people at heart who just happens to be a real jerk about it most of the time. In a way she’s DC Comic’s equivalent of Nick Fury, though I think any sane person would find her significantly more intimidating. In all honesty I’ve been aching to write about Waller for years, especially after the Great DC Reboot of 2011 got its mitts on her. Because for all her faults she’s a damn cool character.

More on “The Wall” after the jump.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Black Superheroes: Night Thrasher

Because "Black Thrasher" sounded too 1970s-ish

Name: Dwayne Michael Taylor

First Appearance: Thor #411 (1989)

History: Son of wealthy philanthropist and former soldier Daryl Taylor, Dwayne saw his parents gunned down at an early age (although he strangely does not recall all of the details). The event traumatized the boy and he swore that he would wage a war on all criminals. Supported by his legal guardian Andrew Cord and housekeeper Tai Dwayne trains for years in the art of fighting, mastering several forms of martial arts and hardening himself as a weapon becoming one the toughest hand-to-hand combatants in the world. Deciding he needed an even bigger advantage over the criminal underground he uses his keen intellect to design and build an advanced body armor with an assortment of gadgets. Along with his trademark twin Battle Staffs and…um…his high tech skateboard Dwayne becomes the pragmatic hero known as Night Thrasher. Not content with doing it on his own however Night Thrasher forms a team of young heroes, modeled after the Fantastic Four, to help him in his vendetta against evil and the press soon dub them The New Warriors. Dwayne now divides his time between super heroics and managing the Wayne Taylor Foundation.

Beta Says: As you can probably guess from the year of his first appearance Night Thrasher is an early product of the Dark Age of Comics. That would likely be obvious just by looking at him; on paper he’s a very unsubtle Batman rip-off that uses a goddamn skateboard as a weapon. The only way he could be a bigger embodiment of the 1990s would be if his name was Nyght Thrazer or Blood Thrasher or something like that. Credit where credit is due; I often complain about some of these black heroes being very stereotypical. You know, “from the ghetto”, “criminal past”, etc. But Night Thrasher is actually a rich boy which is a completely different circumstance than the majority of black heroes before him. Of course he has a serious anger problem which has some unfortunate implications but, you know, baby steps.

More on Night Thrasher after the jump.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Black Superheroes Month IV: Even Blacker

Still the best...
It’s once again time for that annual series of blogs that both win me praise for a much needed service and gets me repeatedly asked why I hate white people so much; it’s time for Black Superhero Month!

For those of you who are recent additions to the readership every year I write a series of profiles and opinions on various black superheroes. There is a misconception out there that there aren’t a lot of black superheroes out there. This is incorrect as there are a lot of them…just not a lot of famous ones. In fact they’re a lot of shitty ones. This month is about talking about them, from the historically significant to the emotionally polarizing. Although I shouldn’t have to mention this but my ranting about this subject isn’t meant to imply that white superheroes shouldn’t exist. It’s merely me, as a black man and a comic nerd, trying to find some ground with the characters I regularly read about. Although it’s true I do hate a lot of white superheroes. Looking at you, Barry Allen

Anywho I’m afraid to say that my profiles on women may be especially limited this year, but almost certainly it will be next year, due to me having somewhat exhausted my knowledge on the topic. This is partly because I’m not a living computer so I can’t have detailed info of every dang character in my brain. But it’s mostly because black women are a horrendously underrepresented minority in superhero comics. Hell, Storm is probably the only really famous one that even non-comic book fans know…and she was kind of ruined for pop culture because of Halle Berry.

I feel a little bad but I have some ideas on how to make it up to the female gender in future blogs. We’ll see if it happens. Regardless as always feel free to post in the comments of these upcoming blogs to offer opinions, suggestions or middle fingers. However hate speech won’t be tolerated; remember I moderate the comment section and I won’t have racism on my blog. (Why should I even need to mention this? Damn it, internet…) 

Next time we kick things off with a superhero from the Dark Age of Comics who fights crime with a skateboard…and is definitely not Batman.
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